Shedrick makes most of second chance; comes through in clutch against Carolina

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For weeks now, Virginia fans have been asking what’s wrong with Kadin Shedrick? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

A regular for much of the season, the 6-foot-11 redshirt junior saw his playing time shrink when Tony Bennett elected to go with a smaller lineup in the first meeting with North Carolina on Jan. 10. Both Shedrick and 7-foot senior Francisco Caffaro didn’t see a lot of court time thereafter, replaced in the post by a smaller (6-8), more mobile, Ben Vander Plas.

Ever since, Wahoo fans asked, “Is Shedrick injured?” “Is Shedrick in Tony’s doghouse?” “Is Shedrick sick?” “Is Shedrick not physical enough?” Dream up a scenario and the Holly Springs, N.C., native was probably involved.

All that changed when the team learned that Vander Plas has fractured his right wrist in Wednesday’s practice for the ACC Tournament. All of a sudden, Shedrick was a valuable commodity once again.

It’s not like that he had been forgotten. Bennett continued to tell Shedrick and Caffaro not to give up, to keep practicing hard because at some point, the opportunity for playing time would return. Be ready was Bennett’s message to his big man duo.

Telling oneself to accept that reality and to “be ready” was one thing. Actually doing it was another. Both Caffaro and Shedrick somehow kept the faith, kept pushing themselves, convinced themselves that their time as coming again.

It did on Thursday night when Vander Plas couldn’t answer the bell. Caffaro started against North Carolina big man Armando Bacot, but Shedrick, who is equipped with more offensive firepower than Papi (Caffaro’s nickname), ended up with more playing time in the ACC Tournament quarterfinal win over UNC with 18 minutes, 40 seconds, equaling the amount of playing time he had amassed in the previous four games collectively.

For the record, Shedrick scored four points, both on dunks, added a rebound and blocked five shots in Virginia’s win.

How did he persevere during the hard times? How did he push himself to “be ready,” and not lose faith?

“I treat every practice like a game day,” a beaming Shedrick said in the locker room after beating the Tar Heels. “I don’t know if it’s any secret, but I was on the Green Team (UVA’s practice squad) for most of the past month or so. I saw it as an opportunity to play against rotation guys every day.”

What that meant was, Shedrick was “talking smack” to the starters every day in practice.

“I’m like, yo, I’m getting after y’all today,” Shedrick described his typical attitude going into daily practice. “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it’s got to be. I will come out there and try to score as much as I can and just be physical.”

He realized small ball was working, that it made Virginia’s offense more potent in most cases and that defense was good. UVA was winning, and that’s what mattered.

His job was to push those starters every day in practice, make them better, make the team better, no matter how much he dreamed of being on the floor. That’s true sacrifice.

Caffaro, who acknowledged his situation was somewhat similar, said they pushed each other to accept their situations, to stay ready and that teammates helped keep them engaged.

“Sometimes it’s hard to do because as a basketball player, you want to play, but I think we both, and I think everybody on the team is always doing whatever they can to help their team in whatever they can, whether it’s practice or a game,” Caffaro said.

They combined to post-trap Carolina’s Bacot into oblivion on Thursday night, holding the Tar Heels’ hobbled big man to 4 points and 3 rebounds in 21 minutes before he retired to the bench the last 10 minutes. Bacot’s rolled ankle from the night before limited his mobility and both UVA big men took full advantage.

“It was a huge challenge,” Shedrick said of taking on the powerful Bacot. “I don’t know if people realize how strong he is. He’s huge. I know a lot of Virginia fans think that I’m not like the strongest. I’m not, but I think I held my own even though he’s incredibly strong.

“I came into the game thinking, I want to make sure I hold my ground. I think I only went one-on-one with him once (because of the double teams), so when they’re done moving, I try to give them the space and try to block the shot. At the end of the day I know I’m a good player and I have to believe in myself.”

Shedrick’s performance again validated Bennett’s “be ready” policy and not only provided UVA teammates confirmation that it works, but also enlightened the Cavaliers’ fanbase that their coach has a reason for his decisions.

Wahoo Nation was delighted to see Shedrick get another opportunity and make the most of it. He’s a very popular player, who brings a lot of energy to the team.

“Kadin stayed ready and stayed poised and waited for his moment,” teammate Jayden Gardner said. “I was happy for him that he was able to impact the game like that.”